Have you ever looked up at the sky and seen the wonderful glory of an eagle spreading its wings and zooming through the sky?
You probably looked up at that majestic sight and thought to yourself “I see why they have such power over the bird family”.
Then you see some small birds in the sky pecking and screaming at this giant.
Are those little birds?
What are they thinking, pecking at predators who will definitely have the upper hand in any confrontation between them?
Are they insane?
The answer is no. What you are witnessing, as crazy and stupid as it might seem, is a protective measure taken by birds that are known as ‘mobbing’.
If you saw it happen in real life, you would agree that it is quite a fitting name too.
The small birds gang up on the big guy, flying past it left and right – truly a mob attack if we’ve ever seen one.
So of course, like all good scientists, we must wonder, why? Why do they do it?
Aren’t they putting themselves in harm’s way?
Today, we’ll answer some of these questions and look at this peculiar survival habit of birds. Let’s get into it!
What Is Mobbing Behavior In Birds?
Mobbing is a survival mechanism in which birds assemble together around a potentially dangerous predator and harass it, pecking and pushing into it as they fly past on all sides.
It is an adaptation to protect themselves, their tribes, and their offspring against much larger and more dangerous predators.
Usually, the mob attack begins with just one or two birds, calling out and trying their best to keep away the big scary bird.
But more times than not, these calls of attack referred to as ‘alarm calls’ alert the other birds who then join in the action, taking care of the threat to their security.
Interestingly enough though, the birds who join in need not even be of the same species or family!
It is truly a work of unity we observe as many birds in the area, no matter the species, rush forth and give a hand in driving the predator away.
They engage in different behaviors, from loud squawking to dive-bombing!
But the harassment doesn’t stop at simply calling out or pecking! It goes much further than that, especially if the predator refuses to back off and the perceived threat continues.
Birds then go haywire and adopt some pretty gnarly techniques to drive this intruder away for good.
In some species, like gulls and fieldfares, which are the species that most frequently exhibit mobbing behavior, they have been observed to vomit on or even excrete their droppings on these birds in an added effort to effectively remove the threat.
It is truly fascinating, moreover, to see their level of accuracy when aiming these bodily excretions at the big birds!
Why Do Little Birds Attack Big Birds? Reson For Mobbing
Birds have a number of reasons for doing what they do. If you have ever seen even one second of the show Predator vs Prey, then you can guess the primary reason.
Predators rely heavily on the element of surprise to capture their meals for the day.
They take an excruciating amount of care in perching behind shrubbery to catch their prey at a moment of carelessness to then pounce on them.
Mobbing makes this a much harder task for the big birds.
As soon as one small bird spots a potential predator, they start screaming their heart and lungs out in alarm, alerting the others to the presence of danger, thereby reducing their chances of being caught unaware, and dying.
Mobbing also serves as a lesson to inexperienced birds, who might not know who to be cautious about.
The birds gang up and drive the big bird away to a safe enough distance where the imminent threat put upon their group is removed, for the moment.
Isn’t Mobbing Dangerous?
Absolutely! In the simplest way of looking at it, this is risky business and could technically backfire at any moment.
Birds try their best to avoid an even more terrible fate than the one they meant to prevent in the first place.
They do this by always making sure they don’t take too many chances with the big bird.
Life or death could be a matter of one small miscalculation on the bird’s part, so they must be careful with their chances.
They also always ensure that they keep the big bird in sight, and are cautiously aware of their surroundings, as a result.
Sometimes mobbing may be as small as a few alarm calls, but other times, especially when the bird has more to lose, the calls are much more aggressive and stronger.
This could be when it is breeding season, and their families and offspring could be at risk from many predators.
Birds also rely on their strength in numbers, especially small birds. While big birds generally have a better chance of successfully driving away slightly bigger predators, it is not the case for small birds.
So they rely on their strength achieved in numbers, or the strength of friendship if you want to be cheesy about it!
They group together and engage in mobbing behavior, for a higher chance of success as well as a lower risk of the attack backfiring.
The world of birds and bird behavior is a fascinating world that you can never really get tired of exploring.
For their size, they are incredible in their capabilities and are one of the most fascinating groups in the animal kingdoms to study and learn about.
We hope this article taught you something new and interesting so that the next time you see a big bird being attacked by smaller birds, you commend their protective efforts rather than stare dumbfoundedly and wonder why!
Thank you for reading!
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